_Religion Explained_ by Pascal Boyer

From: Keith Henson (hkhenson@rogers.com)
Date: Sun 01 Jun 2003 - 04:46:22 GMT

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    Perhaps this book has been mentioned here before, but I don't see any sign of it.

    I am in the process of reading it right now. There are a bunch of reviews of the book, a good fraction of them scathing, a few like this. It is a work most congenial to memetics.

    Keith Henson

    Across the globe and throughout history, human beings have engaged in a variety of religious practices and have held a diversity of religious beliefs. These phenomena have been explained in a variety of different ways by anthropologists, psychologists, and other scholars, as well as by religious practitioners themselves, with varying degrees of success. Perhaps more puzzling, and just in need of an explanation, is the fact that human beings have religion in the first place. According to Boyer, it is only now, with recent contributions of the cognitive and neural sciences and evolutionary biology to the understanding of the nature and origins of the human mind, that we are in position to successfully provide such an explanation. Religion Explained attempts just such an explanation, drawing on cutting edge research in a variety fields and Boyer's own fieldwork experience. Religion, Boyer suggests, is a by-product of the way our minds evolved to negotiate the natural and, more importantly, the social world. Boyer's naturalistic and cognitivist approach is at variance with many established traditions in the study of the religion and his approach may seem wrong-headed to many. Be that as it may, he has produced a challenging and thought-provoking book, containing many insights that transcend what some might see as the limitations of his approach.

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